Inside the Palace

Beth Day Romulo, a READER’S DIGEST reporter, gained access to the palace when she married General Carlos P. Romulo, the Philippine foreign minister. In a gossipy style, she describes the activities of the Marcos circle, but this book cannot live up to its ambitious subtitle. It offers a rehash of already-familiar details about the Marcoses’ fall but provides little information about the reasons for their rise to power. Romulo also seriously underestimates the amount of money the Marcoses managed to steal from their country, a flaw made obvious by information released prior to the publication of this book.

The book’s sole interest is as a type of palace memoir, a genre that includes such classics as Claude-Henri Saint-Simon’s memoirs of Versailles or Sei Shonagon’s about the Japanese court. Unfortunately, INSIDE THE PALACE does not measure up, although Romulo has written a total of twenty-six books, including such titles as THE WORLD OF THE GRIZZLIES, MODERN MOTHERHOOD: PREGNANCY, CHILDBIRTH AND THE NEWBORN BABY, and SEXUAL LIFE BETWEEN BLACKS AND WHITES: THE ROOTS OF RACISM.

Perhaps what prevents Romulo from writing a more interesting memoir is what brought her to the Philippines in the first place: the desire to experience, even vicariously, the thrills of high-style, jet-set existence. Her memories of the Marcoses’ excesses are always presented in a noncommittal, nonjudgmental tone that seems especially out of place considering the greed and political ploys of the couple. Romulo’s work contains few interesting details and little insight: Her conclusion that “Ferdy” would be content studying his law books in Hawaii completely misses the mark, as Marcos has already sponsored several coup attempts.